If you don’t read Jeff Stein’s Spy Talk blog on CQPolitics.com, you’re missing out. It’s chocked full of quick reads about real spies, espionage, the CIA, FBI and Secret Service.
Don’t be scared off by its tag line “Intelligence for Thinking People” — I read it regularly. We caught up with CQ‘s resident spy guy for a FishbowlDC interview that required neither intelligence nor thinking. Here’s what we learned:
What does your morning reading list include? All the major nupes — WaPo, NYT, WSJ — in paper, since I’m allergic to electrons before coffee. In fact, I just started a new policy of not looking at my Blackberry until I’ve finished them.
How did you start writing your beat? SpyTalk, which began as a weekly column in 2005, was the joint idea of me and the top editors here — Bob Merry, David Rapp (both of whom have since left) and Mike Mills (who has just returned).
What was the proudest moment in your career? Maybe the successful 2002 debut of CQ/Homeland Security, which I was hired originally to launch, making money and winning an Online News Association award in its first year.
Have you ever been worried about your personal safety due to the nature of your beat? Only once, when my main source for stories about about U.S.-based anti-Castro Cuban terrorists, was murdered.
Who is your favorite fictional spy and why? Smiley, of course: Stoic, patient, clever and empathetic — to a point.
What’s your favorite spy book? “The Quiet American,” by Graham Greene.
What is the biggest misconception about spies or spying? That it’s anything like James Bond or Jack Bauer.
How many times have you visited the Spy Museum? It’s a great place to meet sources.
What working journalist do you respect the most (excluding CQ/RC)? Walter Pincus, investigative reporting’s Lou Gehrig.
What single person has played the biggest role or has had the biggest influence on your career? The late, great David Halberstam, who opened doors for me with editors in New York.
If you could spy on one person undetected, who would it be? Jane Harman. Just kidding. Osama Bin Laden, of course.
More Q&A after the jump…
What one characteristic or trait is the most valuable for a journalist to possess? Persistence.
How would you spend “the perfect vacation?” Sailing the Greek isles.
Do you own any spy gear? If so, what? A cover story.